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Fighting for decent work

The GIZ’s Fairwork project is improving working conditions on online platforms in 24 countries. 

Ulrike Scheffer, 24.08.2023
Workers in India protest for better conditions.
Workers in India protest for better conditions. © picture alliance / dpa

From delivery and taxi services, to IT services and call centres, today many services are provided or arranged by online companies. They have become a fixture of economies around the world and employ millions of people. The so-called gig economy offers flexible employment models and jobs which require no formal training for around 70 million people globally. However, working conditions on these online platforms are often not very good. They lack employment protections, subvert fundamental rights for employees, and the pay is often poor. 

In order to get by, it is not unusual for workers in the gig economy to work long hours of overtime. For example, drivers for online taxi services in Bengaluru in India have to spend up to 14 hours at the wheel if they want to earn as much as a seamstress in a factory. While they were unable to drive during the Covid lockdown, they still had to go on paying for the upkeep of the vehicles provided by their employers. Many found themselves in dire circumstances.

The GIZ-run Fairwork project helps people in many countries

In order to improve the situation of people who work for online platforms, GIZ is supporting the Fairwork project on behalf of the Federal Government. Fairwork works with academics and scientists to assess the employment conditions of digital employers in 24 countries and shares its findings in the form of a ranking. Businesses with bad rankings need to worry about how others perceive them and come under pressure to introduce decent and humane standards. Rankings of this kind now exist for several countries, including India, Nigeria, Peru, Bangladesh and Bosnia.

The project has set out five principles for fair working conditions. These include fair pay, fair contracts and also the opportunity to have a say in how the business is run. Fairwork can already point to successes in India. Five of the eleven online platforms assessed by Fairwork have committed to establishing better working conditions. They now pay their staff an appropriate minimum wage and guarantee to continue paying workers if they fall ill. This is changing the lives of hundreds of thousands of employees.